Design Elements: Art on the Road: The Logistics of Art Transportation


Art on the Road: The Logistics of Art Transportation

Have you ever thought about how valuable art gets from one place to another? Professional art shippers range from those that handle basic shipping needs, to those that offer greater levels of security and handling, including courier and shipping services, packaging, storage, and installation, depending on the client’s needs. “There is a place for all of those levels, but you have to know them and be comfortable with what you’re giving them,” explained Greg Gahagan, vice president of the fine art shipping company, Ship Art International. 

Collectors and galleries use a variety of shippers, depending on their specific needs. Spencer Rank, owner of Teton Art Services based in Jackson-Hole, Wyoming, serves as the agent for large fine art shipping companies including Gahagan’s company, and also handles art on a local level in Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Montana, and Sun Valley, Idaho. With the building booms in these mountain towns, much of his work comes from interior designers; they receive shipments, store art, and handle installations when the time comes. “Proper handling is crucial,” Rank said. 

When it comes to shipping art, here are some factors to consider: 

Packaging 

Pack to survive
Gahagan explained that once a package hits a service like FedEx, it’s thrown in with millions of others, tossed around, and stored under heavy loads. “There’s nothing wrong with that system, you just have to pack it to survive that system,” he said. 

Cardboard vs. crate
Rank typically quotes packaging two ways. “One is for double-walled cardboard to be shipped with a fine art shipper who will handle it properly, and the other is to build a wood crate and send it with FedEx. If you have a 6-foot by 8-foot painting, it’s probably cheaper to use the cardboard and the fine art shipper because building a wood crate for that size can be very expensive,” Rank said.

Insurance 

Company insurance
Gahagan explained that insurance can be covered through the fine art shipping company or through the collector’s personal insurance policy. “If it’s insured through us, it’s taken care of from door to door, wall to wall,” he said, explaining that some clients don’t have time to add a piece onto their personal policy, so they may opt to pay extra for it through the company.

Private insurance 
Some clients opt to keep the traveling pieces under their own insurance policies, declining the art shipping company insurance. “If they decline our insurance our limit of liability is low,” Gahagan said. “Some clients have a policy that covers their collection, and if lending, they have a rider that covers it not only in the home but in transit as well.”

Choosing an art shipper

Do your research 
Gahagan recommended doing some research. “Call local museums and galleries and ask who they use,” he said. “Based on that information, call those companies and quiz them, find out the level they are working at.” 

Pay a visit 
If you are doing this on a regular basis, go visit them, Gahagan suggested. “They might have a great website, but they’re working out of their garage. Make sure the level they are working at matches your expectations.”

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